13 May 2015

On not going to exhibitions

There's always going to be more exhibitions that you miss than you can possibly see, even if you devote yourself to going to art exhibitions.

I don't go to everything I would like to, or intend to. I could write the recent history of art over the last few years through exhibitions I have failed to attend. I live in London and could quite seriously go to several different exhibitions in a day, and never be done. I read the statistics about that somewhere, estimating the sheer number of changing exhibition listings in major cities worldwide, and London came out tops as having the most. It's like a museum of perpetual motion.

As a reviewer/blogger, I get invited to press views, and I am also on gallery invite lists. It's taken me a while to develop a system to keep up to date with all that, which is still evolving. And still I miss exhibitions, including those MUST SEE blockbusters. I rather dislike seeing art at blockbusters, especially when they are busy or on a timed entry. Something in me rebels about being told THIS IS IT in art. In truth I go to exhibitions not to be persuaded, overwhelmed or convinced, but to think my own thoughts and to find new ways of accessing my imagination. Seeing the world anew through an artist's view, discovering a new paradigm or psychological truth, perhaps encountering a considered window to the world through a beautifully developed aesthetic - all these and more are what can happen at an exhibition. Often art is a great tool for reframing in the psychological sense, perhaps easiest explained by incorporating what was previously unbeautiful into the potentially beautiful camp. It takes away assumed judgements by presenting new judgements.

So I don't go to everything, and also miss out on exhibitions I'd really like to see. Nor do I review or write about every exhibition I go to - sometimes I just want to go and look, and allow the voice of critique to take a day off. I often go to a gallery or museum to find a space to myself to think over a problem or issue I have been saving up for such a moment of privacy and atmosphere. So it's not just the art, it's the cultural paradigm that I seek.

No one surely has the time or freedom to live as an omni-exhibition-goer. There are other things in life, and so choosing what to see is another issue, beyond sheer logistics. As an artist myself, when I get to show work in exhibition, one of the criteria I aim for is that the work is not truly representable online or through images - it has to be experienced live, and that people will want to see and experience the work in exhibition. As it is a market of choice, what art is worth experiencing, and what will more or less work through scrolling through a website. A harsh truth.

As readers of books, there is not an expectation to read all books and know all authors, and yet how often in art being an omnivore is a professional expectation. What is art for, for some sort of contemplation, for thinking about, for impact, and not necessarily for rapid consumption.

I often talk to people who feel somewhat guilty about not going to as many exhibitions as they feel they should. To those people I simply say to consider themselves part of a slow art campaign, and that it's alright to take a breath in between art experiences.

13th May 2015

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